Two obvious questions exist regarding the Georgetown Hoyas now that the 2013-14 college basketball season has officially begun: What's the deal with Josh Smith's eligibility and how is this team going to score now that Otto Porter is in the NBA.
Answering the second query would be easier if we had a resolution to the first. One month into the new school year and now a few days since practice sessions tipped and still no official word on when Smith, the wide-bodied transfer from UCLA, will be eligible for game action.
The Hoyas anticipate hearing soon if the 6-foot-10 center can suit up before second semester. Hope remains that he can though coach John Thompson III would not go into details about the appeals process during a recent sitdown with CSNwashington (for full disclosure, the recent sitdown was a few weeks ago. However, the school's athletic department has not provided any specific timeline for resolution in subsequent conversations with CSN).
Whenever Smith plays, his massive low post presence and surprising passing skills will bolster an offense that enters the season without its leading scorer from last season.
For all of Georgetown's winning and even with Porter's 16.2 points per game, the co-Big East regular season champions did not always light up the scoreboard. Out of the conference's then 15 teams, John Thompson III's Hoyas finished 10th in scoring during league games, 14th overall at 64.7 points. Holding teams to 56.4 points offset any offensive woes more often than not.
Senior guard Markel Starks is Georgetown's only returning double-digit scorer (12.8). Rising sophomore and perimeter threat D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera flashed his point-producing ability as the season progressed.
After those two scorers, well, then it gets tricky, though not from Thompson's coaching perspective.
"The most important thing is that we have a veteran squad. I think people lose sight of that," the coach said. "As good as he was, Otto was the only player we lost from last year."
Georgetown played the final 19 games without forward Greg Whittington, who was the team's second-leading scorer and rebounder before becoming academically ineligible. Hoping to return for his junior season, Whittington suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in June and will likely miss the entire 2013-14 season. Along with Porter's departure, seldom used freshman Brandon Bolden transferred after the season.
"People like to say we lost Greg, but Greg didn't play in (the majority of) Big East games last year," Thompson said. " We have guys that have been in situations. I don't know if I can sit here and say, 'hey little Billy is going to be the one to step.' But I think collectively across the board we have enough experience."
Starks shot 41.7 percent on his 3-point attempts last season while leading the Hoyas in assists. The 6-foot-1 guard averaged 16.2 points over his final five games including 23 in the NCAA Tournament loss to Florida Gulf Coast.
Back in February, Smith-Rivera (8.9 ppg) scored 33 points against DePaul, the most points by a Georgetown freshman since 1996.
Rugged senior Nate Lubick (7.1) shot 59.1 percent from the field last season, but has not developed into a consistent scorer.
Jabril Trawick (5.8) rounds out the projected backcourt rotation, but to date the aggressive junior's game is more about defensive bullying than his own shot making.
"I think we're going to depend on Nate to score more this year," Thompson said. "I think Jabril will score more this year than last year. D'vauntes will be dependent on to score more this year than last year. You saw with him as the year went on he played well."
Like Starks and Lubick, junior Mikael Hopkins (5.9 ppg) started all 32 games last season. Outside of a surprising 15 points against Syracuse in the Big East Tournament, the 6-foot-9 big man rarely provided a positive offensive option for Thompson.
The beauty of college basketball comes from witnessing players develop. Trawick, Lubick, Hopkins along with seniors Moses Ayegba and Aaron Bowen have shown flashes. Rarely used as a freshman, highly touted swingman Stephen Domingo will have opportunity for minutes this season. Which players can go from spark to steady is the question.
Perhaps some of the scoring answers will come from a pair of newcomers.
Considered an NBA prospect during his first two seasons at UCLA, Smith averaged 9.9 points during the 2011-12 season. He played only six games during a chaotic campaign with the Bruins last season before transferring to Georgetown.
"Josh has very good instincts, a very good feel for the game. He's a much better passer than I thought we were getting. He can make all the passes," Thompson said. "He's a load. When he gets the ball on the block, more often than not he's going to score or get fouled."
Reggie Cameron, the only member of Georgetown's 2013 freshman class, supplies additional perimeter range.
"If he's able to, throw Josh into that mix," Thompson said of the potential scoring options. "If he's able to, he will score. You throw Reggie (Cameron) as a freshman into that mix. I don't think us finding who is going to score, I don't think that's an issue.
"Sitting here right now I'm saying 'we really need you to step up.' I think the group will figure it out."
The Hoyas open the season in South Korea on Nov. 8 against Oregon. Hopefully by then we'll know when Smith can play. Ideally by then, Thompson will have a sense of which players he can count on for scoring.